Yousaf: Public inquiry into police handling of Emma Caldwell killer is possible

Iain Packer was convicted of the 2005 murder of Emma Caldwell and sentenced to life in prison with a recommended minimum term of 36 years.

Emma Caldwell was murdered by Iain Packer in 2005 and her body dumped in woodland
Emma Caldwell Emma Caldwell was murdered by Iain Packer in 2005 and her body dumped in woodland

A public inquiry into the investigation of Emma Caldwell murderer Iain Packer is “not off the table”, First Minister Humza Yousaf has said.

Concerns have been raised over the conduct of the former Strathclyde Police in the investigation of Packer, who was jailed for life with a minimum term of 36 years on Wednesday after being found guilty at the High Court in Glasgow of murdering the 27-year-old in 2005.

He was also convicted of 11 rapes against nine women and 21 further charges including sexual assaults and abduction, over 26 years, which judge Lord Beckett described as an “extraordinary campaign of sexual violence”.

Mr Yousaf was challenged on the case at First Minister’s Questions by both Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, both calling for a judge-led public inquiry, presided over by someone from outside Scotland to investigate police failings.

Humza Yousaf has said a public inquiry into how police dealt with killer Iain Packer is a possibility
First Minister’s Questions Humza Yousaf has said a public inquiry into how police dealt with killer Iain Packer is a possibility (Jane Barlow/PA)

The First Minister said he was scheduled to meet with Emma’s mother, Margaret Caldwell, and her lawyer, Aamer Anwar, “urgently” soon and would want to understand her wishes on the issue.

Mr Ross read out quotes from a conversation with Margaret Caldwell, who asked the SNP leader “what are you waiting for?” when it comes to setting up the probe.

The Tory leader said: “Margaret had a message for the First Minister, she said this, ‘If Mr Yousaf genuinely cares about the victims and my Emma, then he has no other option but to organise an independent public inquiry’.

“And she continued, ‘With respect, what are you waiting for?’”

But Mr Yousaf strongly hinted at the calling of an inquiry as he addressed the chamber, but acknowledged there was a chance Packer could appeal the sentence.

“A judge-led public inquiry is something that we’re exploring, is absolutely not off the table and is something we’re giving very serious consideration to given the systemic failings in this case,” he said.

Mr Ross pushed the First Minister to come back with an answer “within days”, urging him to push for a judge from outside Scotland to be appointed, something Mr Yousaf said would be “worth of consideration”.

Humza Yousaf said he would meet with Margaret Caldwell
Margaret Caldwell Humza Yousaf said he would meet with Margaret Caldwell (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Responding, the First Minister said they would “come back urgently” to update MSPs, adding “women have waited far too long for justice”.

Mr Yousaf also accepted that the victims of Packer – who was first interviewed by police the month after Miss Caldwell’s body was found, and who repeatedly lied to investigators – were “ultimately let down” by police.

The First Minister added: “There are many questions to answer why Packer was able to evade justice (and) continue to commit many crimes as he did for so long.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also pressed the First Minister on the issue of who should lead any inquiry.

He quoted Margaret Caldwell, who said women who had raised the alarm about Packer were “humiliated, dismissed and, in some instances, arrested whilst the police gifted freedom to an evil predator to rape and rape again”.

Mr Sarwar said that for any inquiry to be “truly independent” it would have to be led from someone outside the Scottish justice system.

The First Minister said he agreed with Mr Sarwar on many points, saying: “We still in Scotland have a serious problem with misogyny.

“And I know there’s a lot of cross-party consensus around some of the actions that the Scottish Government is taking forward to tackle violence against women and girls.”

He continued: “There is a strong argument that the inquiry is led by somebody outwith Scotland, so I don’t remove that option from the table.”

Police Scotland has apologised to Miss Caldwell’s family and to Packer’s other victims for them being “let down” by policing in 2005.

Aamer Anwar, solicitor for Margaret Caldwell since 2016, said the family will “accept nothing less than the truth, transparency and accountability” and called for a judge-led public inquiry.

Mr Anwar said the Crown Office should make a commitment to Mrs Caldwell and the many women to hold an inquiry rather than a review.

He added: “This is not simply a case of the police just saying sorry in the belief they can move on as it was all about 2005 – the reality is that for over a decade the police engaged in a concerted cover-up, followed by Police Scotland carrying out unlawful spying on Sunday Mail journalists and police officers who had identified Iain Packer as the murderer.

“In that whole period the Crown ordered no further investigation into the killer or the police – it must beg the question why? What were they trying to hide?

“The scale of the crimes and the failures are so catastrophic and vast that nothing less than a robust judicial public inquiry will suffice – she welcomes the comments of the First Minister but for her, time is of the essence.

“Neither the Police nor Crown Office, nor anyone connected to the police, can be allowed or trusted to investigate themselves and their former bosses.

“Mrs Caldwell would welcome any move to select an independent judge from elsewhere in the UK to conduct the statutory pubic inquiry.”

Mr Anwar said he will meet Mr Yousaf, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain and Chief Constable of Police Scotland Jo Farrell to demand a public inquiry.

He added: “Nobody should be allowed to evade accountability or frustrate the investigation process and Emma’s mother Margaret will not rest until she has the truth.

“If anything, it should be clear to the Scottish Government that a public inquiry is in reality the only body capable of revealing the truth, and without truth there can never truly be justice.”